music Rx: Sturgill Simpson, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth'
Last Saturday I went over to my mom's house for dinner. She had invited me over via a text that read; "Making orange mustard chicken tonight if you're interested. Eating a little later, say 6 or 6:30. Also, do you have 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth'?
That night I went over to visit with her. She had made this wonderful dinner with the most delicious chicken breast I think I've ever had in my life, paired with a beautiful kale salad and a simple baked potato. It was amazing!
We sat down and it was just us. My mom had put Sturgill Simpson's 'Metamodern Sounds in Country Music' on the record player. I felt my Dad's presence with us, and I hummed along. Especially when my favorite song, Turtles All the Way Down, came on. I listened carefully, allowing the music to speak for him.
"If you need a friend, Don't look to a stranger,
You know in the end, I'll always be there.
But when you're in doubt, And when you're in danger,
Take a look all around, and I'll be there."
My brother Henry was still away at school and my sister Katie was out hanging with her friends. So my mom and I sat at the table talking about music with the windows open. We shared some of my favorite beer from Texas and watched Beyoncé's film on the couch. I asked her about what it was like growing up in the south during the sixties, and she told me stories about snakes that swam in their swimming hole in Georgia, and about imposing oak trees covered with spanish moss in Alabama. We talked fast and loud and like we usually do in our family.
My dad Howard Huber loved music, and art, and made us laugh constantly. He delighted our family everyday with his wise advice, his warm spirit, and his quick wit. He was, in short, an amazingly rad dude. My Dad didn't want to leave us when he did, and so sometimes his spirit alights on my shoulder or shows up in a room when he wants to join me, when he wants to converse with my mom, or when he wants to be with our family. Sometimes his spirit shows up during a great song. Hell, his spirit shows up on election day -- practically his favorite holiday, and it shows up when something truly funny happens. He would have LOVED Sturgill Simpson's new album, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth' and you know what -- he finds his own way to listen in on stuff beyond this plane. So I can say without reserve that he was definitely there that night, listening to wonderful music and taking part in our lively conversation.
At around 10pm It was time to head home. I hugged my mom, and said thank you for the wonderful dinner. I expressed how happy I was to have spent the evening visiting and I walked toward my car. I got in. I turned on the ignition. The radio came on instantly. And what was on? Waterloo Sunset, one of my Dad's favorites.
I laughed when it came on. I said, mid-laugh, mid-tears -- 'Haha. Okay. Hi Dad." I shook my head and smiled. It was his way of saying -- hey, I'm still here. I've got something I want to tell you. Keep this radio on. I sang along with Ray Davies as I drove away from my childhood home where I had watched my own father enter the next plane of this universe. I sang along LOUD to the last stanza -- my favorite.
And when Sturgill Simpson's latest single, All Around came on, right after Waterloo Sunset? That wasn't an accident either. You can bet that I blasted that radio and felt the full power of the great mystery hitting me right in the heart. I stopped the car, parking along the dark wide boulevard of King's Highway, and listened to a song that seemed to be my father speaking to me from far beyond this world.
There will be days
When the sun won't shine
When it seems like the whole world is against you
Don't be afraid
Life is unkind
You can let go of the pain if you choose to
Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
It ain't too hard
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you
There will be nights that go on forever
Like you're long-lost at sea
Never to be found
Just know in your heart
That we're always together
And long after I'm gone
I'll still be around
Cause our bond is eternal
And so is love
God is inside you
All around you
And up above
And I got it. This is what my Dad had been trying to tell me all month, all week. He had put up such a fight for each day, and now it's my duty to take each day that I get with gratitude, acceptance, and strength.
I am so lucky to be here! Lucky to be listening to the New Sturgill Simpson record with the windows open. Lucky to be eating orange mustard chicken. Lucky to have a wonderful guy by my side. Lucky to have a wonderful mother, brother, and sister. And now I must enjoy it all, despite uncertainty, small challenges, or really big setbacks. That song that night was my Dad's way of saying-- "Libby. Fight for the life you want. But don't fight so hard that your forget what you're fighting for. Don't fight so hard that you can't enjoy this very perfect moment, this very perfect life. I love you. Our love is eternal. God --and me -- are with you always. PS - Thanks for introducing me to Sturgill Simpson.
So with my days -- imperfect yet beautiful like pearls, I will start stringing my own wabi-sabi necklace. Working to make this one precious life I've been given into something special. No extra work needs to be done to make it better. It is mine, and therefore already perfect.
*Photo of Sturgill Simpson by the talented and amazing Melissa Madison Fuller, of Nashville TN.